Coogee was named after Lake Coogee. The Aboriginal name Kougee was recorded in 1841 by Thomas Watson and has also been spelt Koojee, Coojee and Coogee. It means “body of water” in the Noongar language.
In 1870s there were two houses and their vegetable plots and orchards in the area: one owned by discharged pensioner guard John Gilbridge and the other owned by Abraham Hake, who arrived in Western Australia on a convict ship in 1856 and later received a ticket of leave. In the 1880s they were joined by more pensioner guards and their families. The wives of the pensioner guards caused quite a stir in Fremantle; some wore black eye makeup and even smoked clay pipes and chewed tobacco.
Walter Powell opened the Coogee Hotel in 1901. It was surrounded by luxurious gardens and fountains and became known as the Honeymoon Hotel of Western Australia. A racecourse was built next to the hotel and Maudie Tozer, a squatter, was one of the most successful amateur riders.
The current residential area of Coogee commenced development in the 1980s and has grown substantially from its former small rural lots and market gardens. To find out more about the colourful history of the Coogee Hotel I recommend Rick Anspach’s story Powells Old Coogee Hotel in the anthology Tapestry 2: Cockburn, written by the Tapestry Writers’ Group.
– Luba Kambourakis, Adult Services Librarian. This article first appeared in the August 2012 edition of Cockburn Soundings
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